The GI Bill: A History and Future Projections (Part 2 of 2)

This article is a continuation of Matt's previous blog post, which discussed earlier versions of the GI Bill. By Matt Vigeant, staff editor

After the Vietnam War, GI Bill funding remained a low priority.  However, in 1981 Congressman Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery pushed for a program to facilitate recruiting efforts. Under the Montgomery GI Bill, a service member had a set amount deducted from his or her monthly pay for 12 months to fund their future educational benefits. Whenever the soldier had served out their contract, they would receive a monthly stipend from the Veterans Administration for up to 36 months of higher education or vocational training.  Additionally, a soldier could voluntarily make a one-time “buy-up” at the start of their service to receive higher benefit stipends.

While the Montgomery GI Bill contained more benefits than the Vietnam Veterans GI Bill, it still did not reach the level of generosity of the WWII version. However, the Montgomery GI Bill was designed to increase the recruitment of higher caliber candidates, not to reward a group for their wartime service.  In this light, the lower level of benefits made sense, and the quality of recruits rose throughout the 1980’s and 90’s due to this program.

By 2008, the dynamic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan changed lawmaker’s views on veteran’s benefits, and led to the passage of the most significant benefits legislation since the original GI Bill - the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, veterans who served at least 90 days of active duty service after 11 September 2001, or had 30 days of service and were discharged for a service-related disability, are eligible to receive educational aid without having to pay into the VA system.  The amount of benefits varies based on time in service: 36 months on active duty qualifies veterans for 100% of the plan, 90 days for only 40%.  Benefits include:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Book stipends
  • Living expenses based on location

For veterans who attend universities where tuition is more expensive than the GI Bill covers, as long as the veteran is eligible for 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, or has a 20% disability rating from the VA, the Yellow Ribbon Program will aid in defraying costs.  Under this plan, the VA and university divide up the veteran’s tuition, allowing the veteran to attend for a reduced rate or free. Lastly, the old Montgomery GI Bill benefits can be used along-side these new ones if the veteran paid for the old GI Bill, allowing a veteran to have more than the standard 36 months of educational benefits.

In a world where a college education has become the norm, the newly enhanced GI Bill benefits will aid in educating those who have answered our nation’s call to service, and make them more productive members of society. As past GI Bills have shown, this isn’t only good for veterans; it is good for the economy and America’s prosperity.  But above all, this is a proper way for America to say thank you to people who have sacrificed so much. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a fitting evolution of a public policy that created the prosperity of the 1950’s, and will create prosperity for the next generation of veterans.

Full disclosure, the author is a former Army Officer and receives a portion of Post 9/11 GI Bill funding for his graduate studies.

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